Liam Neeson’s ‘witch hunt’ comments miss the point of the #MeToo movement
A note to men in Hollywood: You don’t get to call this a witch hunt.
In an interview with Liam Neeson that aired Friday on Irish network RTE’s The Late Late Show, host Ryan Tubridy turned the conversation to the sexual misconduct reckoning in Hollywood and referenced a comment Neeson made this week that “there’s a revolution happening.”
“What is happening over there, and is it long overdue, and are you happy to see things moving the way they’re moving?” Tubridy asked.
“Yes,” Neeson started, adding: “There is a bit of a witch hunt happening, too.”
Neeson pointed to Garrison Keillor, the former radio host of A Prairie Home Companion who was fired from Minnesota Public Radio in November amid accusations of “inappropriate behavior” toward a woman he worked with.
“Extraordinary writer, radio star – I was reading recently about him,” Neeson said, giving what sounded to be a retelling of Keillor’s own account of the incident and his firing to the Minnesota Star Tribune.
The actor said he’s also “on the fence” about the allegations against Dustin Hoffman, who’s been accused of sexual harassment by seven women. Neeson’s take?
“When you’re doing a play, and you’re with your family – other actors, technicians – you do silly things. … I think Dustin Hoffman was – I’m not saying I’ve done similar things like what he did, you know, apparently touching the girl’s breast – but it’s childhood stuff what he was doing.”
(In December, Kathryn Rossetter wrote an essay for the Hollywood Reporter revealing that Hoffman had repeatedly groped her breast while working together on Death of a Salesman.
It wasn’t until Tubridy began to push back that Neeson performed a bit of backpedaling.
Neeson: “There is a movement happening.”
Tubridy: “Yeah. It’s got to be healthy to have…”
Neeson: “It’s healthy, and it’s across every industry. The focus seems to be on Hollywood, but it’s across every industry. I’m a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, a very proud one. And I get sent facts and figures and stuff, and if you read the stuff I’ve read about how female laborers are being treated in farms, ranches…it’s chilling.”
Neeson is right that women the world over suffer from abuses of men in power. That’s why 300 women in Hollywood created the Time’s Up movement for the purpose of supporting victims of sexual harassment and abuse outside the industry, particularly women who work in low-paying jobs that leave them more vulnerable to abuse.
But when Neeson’s first thought after a question about Hollywood sexism is to address what he perceives as “a bit of a witch hunt,” it reveals the kind of creeping misogyny that’s all for a revolution, as long as it doesn’t hit too close to home.
As Tubridy starts to say mid-interview, the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements are about bringing these stories into the spotlight, even when those stories make us uncomfortable. That means supporting women, even when the accused is a friend or a personal hero or, as Neeson said in Keillor’s case, an “extraordinary writer.” It means supporting women without making excuses for the behavior of the accused. It means showing up for women by interrogating your own actions, both in the past and in your day to day life.
As we wrote in October, it’s on men (like Neeson) to make this happen.